Ministry mourns Catholic health leader Sr. M. Therese Gottschalk

March 15, 2020
Sr Gottschalk
Sr. Gottschalk

Sr. M. Therese Gottschalk, SSM, died Feb. 24 at SSM Franciscan Courts in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at age 88. She had served in Catholic health care facilities from 1960 to 2019, including in the chief executive position at facilities that now are part of St. Louis-based Ascension. She had played a key role in the consolidation of health care facilities in 1989 to form Marian Health System, which later joined Ascension. A remembrance posted on Ascension's website cited her vision in helping to bring about Marian's founding.

Sr. Gottschalk was born June 21, 1931, in Bavaria, Germany, the second oldest of 14 children. She entered the congregation of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother in Germany in 1952, immigrated to the U.S. in 1953 and made first vows in 1954 at a convent in Milwaukee.

She began her nearly 60-year career in Catholic health care as a pharmacy director at the now-closed St. Mary's Hospital in Roswell, New Mexico, where she was later chief executive. In 1974, she became president and chief executive of St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which had been founded by the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. Under her leadership, the hospital expanded significantly.

She also headed the St. John Health System from 1982 to 2010 as it grew to include not just the flagship Tulsa hospital but also four small hospitals. Sr. Gottschalk was a key player in the joining of that health system with the health care facilities of two other Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother provinces to form the Marian Health System in 1989. She headed that system until it joined Ascension in 2013.

She was a senior executive adviser to Robert J. Henkel, who was president and chief executive of Ascension Health. Sr. Gottschalk sat on numerous health care facility and association boards, including the CHA board.

In its online remembrance, Ascension paid tribute to Sr. Gottschalk's "faith-filled life of service," noting that "Sr. Therese was always at the forefront of expanding services to meet the growing needs of the community, especially those living in poverty and most vulnerable."

View a memorial video created by the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother

Copyright © 2020 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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